What Is Equity in Education?
Equity in education can’t be achieved without first understanding the meaning of equity. Equity is the pursuit of fairness and justice, used to create balance. This also underscores the imbalance in what people have access to from the start.
Educational inequity is the unequal distribution of academic resources such as books, technology, school funding, facilities and qualified educators. Historically disadvantaged or oppressed communities such as Black and Latinx families are often victims of these practices.
Equality vs. Equity
While both are important and deal with fairness, there is a difference between equality and equity. Equality requires that all receive the same. Equity takes this a step further by recognizing where each group started and ensuring that balance and justice is restored.
Equality in education is achieved when students are treated equally and have access to similar resources. Equity is achieved when students in marginalized groups receive the resources they need, even if they need more support than another school, so they graduate prepared for success after high school.
An Example of Equity in Education
Imagine two schools both have textbooks. On the surface, this seems fair because both possess the same type of resource. However, upon closer examination, one school has brand new textbooks while the other has 25-year-old textbooks and learning from old materials.
For there to be equity in their education, the students with old textbooks also need access to the newest ones. Learning from older materials means that students might be learning outdated information rather than a version incorporating new teaching methods and insights on making the material clearer. Access to the newest materials can give students the best shot at success in and out of the classroom, ensuring grade progression and minimizing potential learning gaps.
Using the textbook example above, if each school receives the same year textbook, all students have equality in the classroom. But, this doesn’t consider that, in previous years, students were learning from outdated textbooks. For there to be equity in their education, these students may need additional support to close the learning gap that inadequate resources created.
The Need for Equitable Education
The importance of equity in education is profound and the impact is exponential for Black and Latinx students and students in under-resourced areas.
Equitable academic outcomes:
- Ensure high outcomes for all students
- Remove predictability of success or failures associated with social or cultural factors
- Discover and utilize unique gifts and talents in students
Educators in under-resourced schools have to focus precious energy and efforts on finding necessary resources to help students catch up to their thriving counterparts. When students are given access to equitable resources and opportunities, their growth accelerates because they have what they need to excel and their efforts are put fully toward learning.
How to Identify Students Who May Be Underserved
Educational inequity exists everywhere—often between different communities—but it can also exist within the same classroom. Identifying who may need additional support is the first step to restoring justice and equity in education.
Typically, historically marginalized and oppressed communities, under-resourced areas, or first-generation students have not received equitable access to education. Racism, homophobia, and other social risk factors impact whole communities—including education systems. Many schools in these areas have been discriminated against, excluding them from funding, resources and experiences.
Promoting Equity at the School and Classroom Level
Communities hold the power to affect change and promote equitable education for all students. Here are a few ways to take action:
- Address systemic issues—recognize and spread awareness that systemic injustices exist in the educational system, and address these issues head-on.
- Talk to the other parents in your community about what you are seeing and get their thoughts on these issues. Set up time to discuss this with your students’ teachers or administrators.
- Address the roles of leadership and administration—school leadership can be a larger part of the systemic issues or be unaware that they exist, but as they are in positions of power and influence, they need to be a part of the solution. One way to hold your school’s leaders accountable is by attending school board meetings when they are held and speaking about the needs of your students at those gatherings.
- Remove current barriers—create change through community awareness and school system policy changes. Use your vote and your voice to create change whenever there is a chance to vote for school board members or on policy changes at community meetings.
- Understand how technology has a larger role in a student’s education—currently, equitable access to technology is one of the biggest barriers to student development as not every student has access at home.. Reach out to and petition school district leaders and board members to seek ways in which access to technology is available to students.
Empowering All Students to Succeed
Building an equitable learning environment empowers all students to maximize their potential, including those with diverse educational needs. Leaning into and prioritizing personalized learning opportunities can give each student the time, accommodations and resources they need to meet their educational goals.
Despite grade level, some students may have difficulty learning in certain subject areas, different reading levels or language barriers. Personalized learning and supplemental materials make all the difference for these students and students with greater needs. Allowing school leaders to have more autonomy to source the appropriate materials, resources, and training enables them to create an equitable learning environment.
Make a Change for Equitable Education
Equity in education impacts students’ academic success and entire communities alike. Equitably funding and providing resources to all schools, ensures the best possible outcomes for students and honors their unique gifts and talents. This learning environment allows educators to personalize student learning, which benefits students and gives them a more positive view of learning and their potential, shaping them into more confident and prepared adults.
Students are the future, and they deserve a more equitable and just school system. Interested in making a difference?